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Gregg Stafford, Trumpet BORN: New Orleans, July 6,1953 Played with the E. Gibson Brass Band, the Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band, the Hurricane Brass Band, and the Young Tuxedo Brass Band Interviewed at his home on Second Street, October zooi I've lived here in New Orleans all my life, and I don't think I could accept living anywhere else. I don't think I'd be a musician today if I hadn't been born here, becauseof the way circumstances happened in my life. Actually, I becamea musician not by choice but byfate. I guess it was predestined. While I was betweenjunior and senior high school, I was about fifteen years old. I had always lived uptown, mostly two blocks awayfrom where we're sitting now. My mother andfather had separated, andfor a brief period I lived downtown at my mother's new house onBurgundy Street. At that time,you had to attend the schoolthat was in the district whereyou lived. I had already selected industrial arts as one of my electives—I was alwaysgood at drafting, measuring, and woodworking. I had toget afalse address and apermit to attend schooluptown. While I was waitingfor it to come through, I didn 't attend school at allfor about six weeks;my mothergot the impression that I was somehow trying to drop out of school. Shegot up one morning and said, "Look, this isjour last day.If you can'tgetyour school sorted out today,you 're going to have togo to either Booker T. Washington orJoseph Clark." I went up to see theprincipal, and he told me, "I notice that one of your electives 40 is industrial arts. That class has stopped, so I can offer jou three choices: vocal music, instrumental music, or home economics." At that time, home economics was considered to be afemale course, and I never did like the idea of singing in a choir. The band director happened to be in the office while theprincipal was telling me this. When I left the office, he approached me and said, "Openjour mouth!" I thought something was wrongwith my teeth, soI looked at him kind of strangely. He said, "Just openjour mouth, andgritjour teeth. Iwantjou to select instrumental music asjour choice." I said, "I don't think I can do that, because I don't have an instrument." He told me, "Don't worry about that. I'll letyou use oneofthe school instruments." Prior to that, when I was injunior high school, I had asked my mother to buy me an instrument, because most of the kids in the neighborhoodplajed. But she wouldn't get one, because she assumed that I would lose interest,and she would have wasted the money. Of course, I had heard bandsplaying on the street, but I hadn't been inspired bj a passion for music—that developed when I started toplay. There was music all over the neighborhood where I lived. There were a lot of local musicians who were very prominent on the rhjthm and bluesscene. Ernie K. Doelived locally, and Rajmond Lewis, the bassist. I was only afew blocks from the Dew Drop, andjust about every corner had a barroom where music wasplajed. When I was a kid,jou saw musiceverywhere. I went homethat night, and thefirst thing my mother wanted to know waswhether I had got intoschool. I told her I had. Sheasked me had I got all my classes, and I said, "All except one.I had to make a choice, and I'm thinking of taking instrumental music." She flew into a rage. "I am not signing nopaper for no instrument. No! No way."Shethought that even if the school loaned me a horn, she would still be responsible for paying for it. I went to school the next day, and the band instructor was waitingfor me, with my horn. He said, "Didjou makejour selection?"I said, "My mother won't sign the slip." He said, "Tell her not to worry. Even ifjou lose the horn, she doesn 't have topay for it." I told my mother what he bad said that night, but she still refused to sign. I cried all night—I didn't want to take vocal music, and I definitely didn't want to take home economics. My mother would get up at six o'clock in the morning togo to work. She had heard me crying in the night, and she came to my room.She said to me, very reluctantly...


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